Myanmar’s Disastrous Flooding Shows Asean Exposure To Catastrophes


The world increasingly knows that global warming across the planet has devastating consequences for the mankind by multiplying natural catastrophes. Southeast Asia is particularly vulnerable to flooding and pouring rains in Myanmar is a reminder of what makes regularly headlines in ASEAN. Some 250,000 people have been affected so far in this month flooding, mostly in the region of Sagaing and in Chin State.
Countries most vulnerable in ASEAN to flooding are the Philippines and Myanmar but also Vietnam, Southern Thailand/Northern Peninsular Malaysia.

Asia has more than 90% of the global population exposed to tropical cyclones as well as flooding.

“Floods are among the most major climate-related disasters,” wrote in June 2013 Yukiko Hirabayashi of the University of Tokyo and lead author of a report in Nature Climate Change magazine. “In the past decade, reported annual losses from floods have reached tens of billions of U.S. dollars while thousands of people are killed each year.” Asia experienced already the highest number of weather- and climate-related disasters in the world during the period 2000–2008 and suffered huge economic losses, accounting for the second highest proportion (27.5%) of total global economic loss according to IPCC report of 2012. Flood mortality risk is heavily concentrated in Asia as people live in low-lying coastal zones with flooded plains accommodating half of Asia’s urban population.


UNEP and WMO-backed Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) observed a change between 1955 and 2005 in rainfall. According to their analyses, Southeast Asia’s annual total wet-day rainfall has increased by 22 mm per decade, while rainfall from extreme rain days has increased by 10 mm per decade, although climate variability and trends differ across the region and between seasons.

Between 1955 and 2005 the ratio of rainfall in the wet to the dry seasons increased. While an increasing frequency of extreme events has been reported in the northern parts of Southeast Asia, decreasing trends in such events are reported in Myanmar. In Peninsular Malaysia during the southwest monsoon season, total rainfall and the frequency of wet days decreased. However, rainfall intensity has increased in much of the region. However, during the northeast monsoon, total rainfall, the frequency of extreme rainfall events, and rainfall intensity all increased over the peninsula.

The main factor is temperature warming. Across Southeast Asia, IPCC experts point out that temperature has been increasing at a rate of 0.14°C to 0.20°C per decade since the 1960s, coupled with a rising number of hot days and warm nights, and a decline in cooler weather. The rise in temperature is triggering flooding due to additional waters coming into Southeast Asia from Himalayan glaciers mass loss. “A rise of 2-degree Celsius in temperature is likely to expose 27 million more people to floods. With a 4-degree C warming the exposure rises to 62 million and at 6- degree C it is up to 93 million people” says the IPPC report. Experts also predict that ‘100-year floods’ –as quoted in the 20th century- will however occur every 10 to 50 years in the 21st century.

IPCC points out the need for better projections of river flooding, served as a motivation for current studies on protecting urban and rural areas across Asia from increased levels of water. ASEAN most exposed cities to massive flooding in the next 50 years are Haiphong and Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, Bangkok in Thailand, Manila in the Philippines and Yangon in Myanmar.
This will then force governments and various official bodies to rethink tourism management. Not only in case of heavy crisis but also in terms of reshaping tourism products according to potential risks. It will also request adapting infrastructure to withstand better potential climate events. Certainly another difficult task for ASEAN governments to cope with…